2017 Reading Challenge: 5th installment

-A book that’s becoming a movie in 2017: The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman. This is a non-fiction book as it’s based on real-life happenings and diary excerpts about this story. During WWII in Warsaw, Poland, the zookeeper and his wife turned their zoo into a safe house and a stop on the Underground Railroad to save the lives of 300 Jews who had been imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto.

-A book you’ve read before that never fails to make you smile: Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone  by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay. Such a wonderful book, and this time I read the edition with the illustrations by Jim Kay. What beautiful additions to the story, I loved the illustrations that were included that really brought the story to life! So, this story always makes me smile, and my smile was even bigger this time around! I love Harry Potter!!

-A book with a red spine: Rebel Queen  by Michelle Moran. “When the British Empire sets its sights on India in the 1850s, it expects a quick and easy conquest. But when the British arrive in the Kingdom of Jhansi, expecting its queen to forfeit her crown, they are met with a surprise. Instead of surrendering, Queen Lakshmi raises two armies—one male, one female—and rides into battle like Joan of Arc. Although her soldiers are little match against superior British weaponry and training, Lakshmi fights against an empire determined to take away the land she loves. Told from the perspective of Sita, one of the guards in Lakshmi’s all-female army and the queen’s most trusted warrior.” (goodreads). This was a great book and was a historical even that I had never learned about. A great read for any fan of historical fiction. To choose this book for this prompt, I browsed the shelves at the library and explored those with a red spine. Pretty easy. This one caught my attention of all the red-spines I looked at.

-A book of letters: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. “A milestone in the history of popular theology. A masterpiece of satire, it entertains readers with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life and foibles from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to “Our Father Below.” At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging account of temptation–and triumph over it–ever written.” (goodreads). 

-A book with a month or day of the week in the title: The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright. “Their story begins with one letter on their wedding night, a letter from the groom, promising to write his bride every week—for as long they both shall live. Thirty-nine years later, Jack and Laurel Cooper die in each other’s arms. And when their grown children return to the family B&B to arrange the funeral, they discover thousands of letters. The letters they read tell of surprising joys and sorrows. They also hint at a shocking family secret—and ultimately force the children to confront a life-changing moment of truth .” (Goodreads). Obviously, this book has the day Wednesday in the title. The premise of this book sounded interesting so I chose it. Didn’t realize right away that it was in the Christian Fiction genre…it’s not my favourite genre, and the writing was typical for that genre, but it was an okay story.

Educate Ourselves!

I recently read a book of essays entitled In This Together: Fifteen Stories of Truth and Reconciliation. Check out my review here: https://red5sbooknook.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/in-this-together/

This book got me thinking about how much I actually know about residential schools and their history. I’ll admit I know the basics, but have never really studied it in-depth. It made me want to educate myself, and also to expose it to my kids so they’re brought up knowing something about this aspect of their country’s history. This led me to my library to explore whether there were children’s books about this topic that I could access. I was glad to discover that there were books available so I checked some out and brought them home. I read them first, before reading them to my kids…just so I could be somewhat prepared to explain/answer any questions that might come up. These are the two books that we read together:

           

These are written by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, with beautiful art by Gabrielle Grimard. These books are based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and some of her experiences with the residential school system. When I Was Eight is about Olemaun/Margaret’s desire to go to the school and what she experienced there. And, Not My Girl  is about her return home and settling back into her family and home and the changes that go with that. Both are excellent for children as an introduction to this aspect of history. I highly recommend them! The illustrations are wonderful, too, and really add something special to the story.

My kids and I had a great discussion after reading these books. They had questions, they were sad about some parts, and we talked through those questions and feelings so they could understand it to the best of their abilities for their ages (9 and 6). I will try to discuss this topic more frequently with my kids as they grow older, and look through more books so that we can educate ourselves.

2017 Reading Challenge: 4th installment

-A book that is a story within a story: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. “During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime. A crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy—her vivacious, loving, nearly perfect mother. Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress living in London. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this may be her last chance, Laurel searches for answers to the questions that still haunt her from that long-ago day, answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past. Dorothy’s story takes the reader from pre–WWII England through the blitz, to the ’60s and beyond. It is the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined. The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams and the unexpected consequences they sometimes bring. It is an unforgettable story of lovers and friends, deception and passion that is told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world.” (Goodreads). This was definitely a story within a story…I love the books that Morton writes!

-A book with a title that’s a character’s name: Davita’s Harp by Chaim Potok. The main character is a young girl named Davita, hence why I chose it for this prompt. “For Davita Chandal, growing up in the New York of the 1930s and ’40s is an experience of joy and sadness. Her loving parents, both fervent radicals, fill her with the fiercely bright hope of a new and better world. But as the deprivations of war and depression take a ruthless toll, Davita unexpectedly turns to the Jewish faith that her mother had long ago abandoned, finding there both a solace for her questioning inner pain and a test of her budding spirit of independence.” (Goodreads).

-A book with career advice: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Although I don’t specifically have what one might call a “professional” career, I used to be work for a professional organizing company and it’s something that I still love to do in my own home. This book was a great little volume on some basics to getting through the seemingly never-ending possessions that we own. It gave me ideas of what to do in my own home, and also showed different ways of thinking about our possessions. And, do we really NEED everything that we have in our homes? A great read.

-An espionage thriller: Sweet Tooth  by Ian McEwan. This was a somewhat entertaining read. Not as much thriller as slightly espionage-like, but it works for this category. The story of Serena Frome who finds herself involved with the Intelligence Service, and is sent on a secret mission that brings her into the literary world of Tom Haley, a promising young writer. She loves his stories and then she finds herself staring to love him. If and when she reveals her undercover life is indeed the question of the day!

-A book written by someone you admire: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay  by J.K. Rowling. Based on the short volume that Rowling wrote for charity, this flushes that “textbook” out into a full screenplay which was made into a film. The brief journey of Newt Scamander as he attempts to retrieve some of the magical creatures that he brings to New York…after they accidentally escape from his case. An excellent read by one of my faves whom I admire…J.K. Rowling! Love this brief look into her wizarding world!

2017 Reading Challenge: 3rd installment

-A book by an author who uses a pseudonym: Shopaholic to the Stars  by Sophie Kinsella. This is book #7 in the Shopaholic  series, and ‘Sophie Kinsella’ is a pseudonym for British writer Madeleine Wickham. This book finds Becky and her family relocating to Hollywood and trying to begin a career as a stylist to the stars! I’ve read a few of the earlier books in this series, and I enjoyed the ones I’ve read more than this one. This one was okay, but there seemed to be a lot going on and I wasn’t a huge fan of the move to Hollywood.

-A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you: In This Together: Fifteen Stories of Truth and Reconciliation edited by Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. Since this was a collection of essays, I wouldn’t really say that there is one main character. But the fact that there are numerous characters/authors that are from the First Nations and Inuit communities will qualify for this category (as I am from neither of those communities). An excellent book, and one that should be read by all Canadians.

-A book set in a hotel: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet  by Jamie Ford. So, this book doesn’t actually take place in a hotel…although there are a few scenes where it does, the story revolves around the Panama Hotel. A fictional story happening around the Japanese internment camps in the U.S. during WWII, and also race relations between the Chinese and Japanese characters. A beautiful story, jumping back and forth from the 1940s and 1986. I was in tears by the end. For those who love a good read, I would highly recommend this one!

-A book set in the wilderness: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail  by Cheryl Strayed. This was a fascinating book! I read it in just a few days, and could hardly put it down! The true story of Cheryl Strayed who, after the death of her mother and her own divorce, hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) alone over three months. This is an incredible story.

-A book with pictures: Canada  by Mike Myers. This book is something that Mike Myers refers to as “a love letter to Canada.” It’s an excellent read full of humour, history, and all things Canadian. “It is both a memoir of a Canadian at home and abroad, and a wildly autobiographical investigation of a nation.” (part of the book’s description). This book is full of pictures/photographs of Mike Myers and all sorts of Canadian memorabilia! A great read for someone looking for some Canadiana or something new by Mike Myers!

In This Together

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I recently read a book entitled In This Together: Fifteen Stories of Truth & Reconciliation. It’s a book of essays from fifteen contributors, with Indigenous backgrounds and non-Indigenous backgrounds. Each contributor explores their own “aha” moments regarding Canada’s colonial past and present. The purpose? To ask how we can all move forward in a spirit of reconciliation and anti-racism.

This book was a really excellent read, and a brief glimpse into what life is and has been like for Indigenous people in Canada. It saddens me that residential schools and the poor treatment of Indigenous people is a part of our Canadian history. But it is, and it breaks my heart.

So many sentences/phrases jumped out to me from this book; I had post-it notes on numerous pages throughout the book: things I wanted to remember, things that made me displeased with our history and our country, questions I asked myself, and some inspiration to do things differently. Here are just a few excerpts:

“No nation can understand itself without a firm grasp of where it came from. Our nation has yet to fully teach its history and therefore cannot be said to understand itself. Until there is a substantial, sincere, and effective attempt to teach this history, this country will not – cannot – be whole.” (p 84)

“When all Canadians understand the impact of what the residential school system did to our Indigenous peoples, only then will the prime minister’s 2008 apology for the operation of this horrid system really mean something – because what is an apology worth if you dont’ understand what you’re apologizing for? Reconciliation will flow naturally when this happens.” (p 85)

“They say it’s never too late to learn, and in that I remain hopeful. When every Canadian knows about the Indians who were killed in the children, when every Canadian, no matter their heritage, accepts what colonization did to our First Nations, only then will our country be whole – an entire nation healed. That will be Canada’s a-ha moment.” (p 85)

“We have not settled properly because we have not looked at what the First Nations people experienced, offered, or what they’re offering now. We changed the design of the earth and cultivated it to grow food, not once stopping to recognize native species of plants.” (p 96

It’s such a big issue that it feels overwhelming to realize that I am just one person in the grand scheme of things. How can I  make my/our world a better place? One where residential schools become something we learn from and vow to never let happen again in our world? A place where we celebrate our differences and no one is treated poorly because of those differences. We all need to do our part.

One last quote…

“It’s the wider community that needs to do the work, to listen and to learn.” (p 59)

2017 Reading Challenge: 2nd installment

-A book that’s been on your TBR list for way too long: Unlimited: How to Build an Exceptional Life  by Jillian Michaels. I received this book for free when I went to a taping of a show and Michaels was a guest. So, it’s been on my shelf for almost 6 years and I finally got around to reading it. It’s a self-help book, if you’re into that kind of thing (I’m not), so I kind of skimmed some parts. I enjoyed when the author used examples from The Biggest Loser as I used to watch that show. I probably won’t read it again, but it’s nice to have it finally taken off of my TBR list.

-A book about an interesting woman: Victoria  by Daisy Goodwin. A story about Queen Victoria. As I started this book, I realized that I didn’t know really anything at all about this Queen, so I was fascinated to read a fictionalized account of her life, based on her personal diaries. This was an excellent story and I had a difficult time putting it down. A very interesting woman, Victoria was.

-A book by an author from a country you’ve never visited: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. “Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them—in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul—they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation.” (goodreads). Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and this is a country I’ve never visited. A very good book, despite its serious content.

-A book by or about a person who has a disability: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly  by Jean-Dominique Bauby. The interesting and tragic true story/memoir of the author, who suffered a stroke and ended up almost completely paralyzed…except for his left eyelid. He wrote this book by blinking to communicate with a special alphabet system. A quick read, but very interesting.

-A book about food: Chocolat  by Joanne Harris. The story of an outsider trying to make her way in the world, most specifically in the small French town where she opens up a chocolaterie at the beginning of Lent. She becomes a part of that town, friends with some and someone to be avoided by others. Her shop being right across from the church, “she begins to wreak havoc with the town’s Lenten vows.” This is “a timeless and enchanting story about temptation, pleasure, and what a complete waste of time it is to deny yourself anything.” (quotes are taken from the back of the book). A fun and interesting read. It was lovely reading about all of the delicious chocolate treats that are described in the book as well. Mouth-watering! This book was also made into a movie starring Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, and Johnny Depp.

Blind Date…With A Book!!!

Here's my Blind Date!!! The description reads, "It rained for three days."
Here’s my Blind Date!!! The description reads, “It rained for three days.”

It’s that time of year again: time to go on a blind date…with a book from my local public library. Each year I’m always excited to participate in this activity. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this concept, here’s how it works:

Don’t always judge a book by its cover. Trust in fate (and your library) and choose a mysterious book. You may fall in love or it might fall flat, but either way you can rate your date and win fabulous prizes!

So, all the books are wrapped as the picture above shows, and you get to choose which book you’ll go with on a blind date…based only on the description. Always a lot of fun!!!

This is my fifth year taking part in this, and in the past I’ve had 3 really good book choices and 1 not-so-good choice. But that’s the fun of it! You don’t know whether it’ll be a Dud or a Stud until it gets unwrapped and read!

Here’s the book I unwrapped:

When She Came Home by Drusilla Campbell
When She Came Home by Drusilla Campbell

I’ve never heard of this book or this author, but that’s the fun of doing this activity: possibly being introduced to an author that you might really enjoy. Looking forward to reading this one.